People to Know / Punch Profiles : nailsaloon Owners Andrea Vieira and Claudia Diamante

Not all nail salons are the same, believe me you. I should know because I’ve traveled to the ends of the earth and everywhere in between ISO “the perfect mani/pedi spot” because frankly, I don’t have the skill set to do my own (nor the patience). There are some sweatshop-like businesses you walk into and get greeted with a grunt, a shout, then you are rushed to pick your color before being pushed into an icky seat. You feel tense from the bad energy and unsure if your girl is going to cut you or do a worse job than even you could. Then there are some salons that you charge you for your arm and your leg before they even touch your fingers or toes. You leave with a dent in your bank account and about two hours later than originally planned.

When it comes to nail salons, my mind goes to the triangle. Cheap. Fast. Good. You can have cheap and fast, but not good. You can have good and fast, but not cheap. You can have cheap and good, but not fast. The route of $11 for a cheap and fast, but not good mani on the run is necessary sometimes (Manhattan is the primo for this). Dolling out your paycheck and while self-spoiling all afternoon is nice as well, however, nothing beats paying a bit extra for not just a GOOD, but EXCELLENT and TIME EFFICIENT experience. It’s worth it. That’s what I found, as have other loyalists, at the nailsaloon on 14th Street, NW.

Located above Zengo Cycle in the energetic bustling Logan Circle neighborhood, this atmospheric salon has been drawing a burgeoning set of clientele since opening its doors only four months ago and for good reason. When I first experienced the nailsaloon, I knew I’d boomerang back. First, there’s the greeting at the bar- drinks, coffees, teas made just for you, then the explanation of the non-toxic polishes, the relaxing pedicure, the perfect manicure, the happy social atmosphere (or quiet-if you want to zone out, come during the midday), and the swift and professional execution of the staff. Women have been known to just “hang out” after their treatments in the lounge area because it’s so comfortable. And then there are the owners, one of whom I ended up conversing with for so long during and post-mani/pedi that I missed my “must-leave-by” time. It was worth it. Andrea Vieria was, is, rather, the new best friend you want to have in your life. She has a fascinating background, a can-do attitude, and a creative thought process that took a unique idea and turned it into a reality. She and her business partner/bestie Claudia Diamante dreamt up what they believed to be the “perfect nail salon” and made it happen. They are entrepreneurial and enterprising, and folks, this is just the beginning.

nailsaloon Owners Claudia Diamante and Andrea Vieira
nailsaloon Owners Claudia Diamante and Andrea Vieira

Pamela’s Punch: What’s going on in the world of the nailsaloon?

Claudia Diamante: Like with any new venture, we are becoming familiar the pulse of the business, adjusting and improving where we need, so we’re comfortable with our operations and logistics. We want to make sure we are set up to honor our core values, and we’re well on our way!

Andrea Vieira: We are!  It’s hard to believe we’ve been open for almost four months.  It’s been great fun to get to know our clients, to start getting a sense of the rhythm of the neighborhood, and to start solidifying the nailsaloon brand.

PP: Tell us a bit about you professional background. 

CD: I studied Economics and Finance and throughout my career I’ve worked in various roles in Finance, Product Marketing and Sales, starting in the Pharmaceutical industry and then moving on to the Media and Satellite industry. I am a “numbers person” and could probably not conceive of a day without a spreadsheet of some sort…how boring, right? [Laughs]. But I am thankful I started my career in Finance because it has given me a good foundation to move onto other things, like creating the nailsaloon.

AV:  I am actually thankful she started her career in Finance, too!  [Laughs] So while Clau is a numbers person, I am a words one, and our clients can attest, I love me some chit-chat. I am former journalist and TV producer and spent most of my career making television.  I started at CNN, went on to Discovery to work on documentaries, then spent a long time being a freelancer where I reported, produced and wrote news and TV programs here and abroad.  I always joke that television gives you great training for anything because nobody’s ever turned on their television to find the show wasn’t on. TV forces you to worship the deadline and the deliverable, you know?  So that sense of immediacy translates into working hard to solve problems, making decisions quickly and hopefully, building a loyal audience. It’s actually not all that different from what we’re trying to do here, with nails and cocktails.

PP: Where did you grow up? 

CD: I grew up in Argentina, even though I was born in Australia, to an Italian father and a Brazilian mother. I lived in Buenos Aires for a great portion of my life and I feel that’s the place where I really feel I became who I am, but I’ve also been in the U.S. for 14 years and consider DC to be home.

AV: And I’m from Belo Horizonte, a city in southeastern Brazil.  I’ve lived in the UK, twice in Spain, and in four cities in the U.S., but it took me a long time and a whole lot of moving to finally realize that DC is also the place I call home.

PP: When did you come to Washington? What did you think of it then as compared to now?

AV: Wow, it’s changed so much.  I went to UMD for undergraduate so I remember 14th Street being our quasi red light district, without the glamour of Amsterdam, of course.  It certainly wasn’t a destination like it is now.   It’s exciting to see DC become a foodie town, become increasingly cosmopolitan.  That Brown University study that showed we’re the fourth most diverse city in the US, even more than NY? That’s a huge badge of honor, I think.

CD: I actually had a hard time adjusting when I first moved to DC. I grew up in a big city and DC felt a bit like a small, segregated town. Today, I am energized by the incredible amount of change DC has undergone and I’m thrilled to be part of it, having a woman-owned business.

PP: Your industry is certainly competitive. How do you believe nailsaloon is different than your competition? 

CD: Our value proposition centers on providing a great overall experience to our clients, not just through excellent service, but through exceptional pampering and relaxation. We care about the health of your nails, so we only use 5-free nail polish, organic, unscented lotions and we make our own all-natural scrubs. We are obsessed with cleanliness, and use either medically autoclaved tools or single-use files and buffers. The nailsaloon is always clean and we feel this is key to giving our client’s a worry-free experience. And, because we believe business has a role to play in giving back to the community, we have committed to donating 3% of our profits to the DC Coalition for the Homeless, so we can help them in their important mission, even if it’s in a small way.

AV: Claudia said it best. We’re trying to do something very different.  And truthfully, if we could raise the bar for the entire nail salon business in the immediate area, we’d be thrilled.

PP: Who would you say is “your client”? 

CD: Our client cares about looking good and feeling good.  She is health-conscious, active and appreciates excellent customer service. Our client lives a fast-paced life, so she seeks a place where she can combine two or more activities: winding down and reading a magazine, having happy hour with a friend or doing some extra work with her morning coffee, all while getting her nails done.

AV: One of my favorite Claudia-isms is “hyper-multitasking,“ which she’d often use when we were designing the nailsaloon. You no longer have to rush to get your nails done before happy hour.  Nail time is the new happy hour.

PP: Who is your idol or inspiration? 

AV: That’s a tough question.  I think I’m more inspired by individual acts of heroism or compassion than by one person because everyone can do, in their day-to-day, things that are worthy of admiration.  I think the characteristics I admire most in others are resilience, humility and optimism.

CD: People who are tenacious and passionate about their lives. People who, no matter how adverse their circumstances may be, continue in their search for a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

PP: Any local go-to restaurants/arts & culture/sporting venues? 

CD: I am so out of the loop on the DC social scene! I wish it wasn’t so, but until the day has more than 24 hours, I am not sure I’ll be able to get in the loop.  [Laughs] Truth be told, I love going to restaurants that have a neighborhood feel but are top-notch in their own way. Capitol Sushi, for example, is this tiny, unpretentious place in Capitol Hill that’s a true gem of yummy food with an authentic, laid-back atmosphere. I also like taking my daughter to the National Building Museum.  It’s such a great place for families with fun activities and interactive exhibits.

AV:  Can we talk about how obsessed I am with the beet and goat cheese salad at Barcelona?  Or how we are still trying to figure out a way to get Le Diplomate’s bread-baking smells to come in through our windows every morning? All joking aside, we’re lucky to be surrounded by so many fantastic restaurants and bars.  And there’s still lots of construction around us, so it will be cool to see what pops up in the neighborhood.  As for cultural venues, just this past weekend I had guests in town and we went to the Ford’s Theater to see their exhibit downstairs, which included the pistol Booth used in President Lincoln’s assassination. Thank goodness for visitors who get us into tourist mode, right? In any case, they have super knowledgeable guides there who gave us the play-by-play of that fateful night.  So there, my plug for the National Park Service on this important year that marks 150 years of Lincoln’s death.  You should check it out.

PP: What’s next for the nailsaloon? 

AV: In the immediate future, we are excited to be planning our first “Manis and Mentoring” event, which will have clients mentoring young DC women who need a dose of inspiration, while both get their nails done.  Pampering with a purpose – there’s that hyper-multitasking again.

CD:  We think there’s a bright future ahead for the nailsaloon! We are committed to creating the go-to experience for nail beauty and health, and are already exploring some avenues to extend our reach.

PP: It’s still January. Anything you are doing differently (or NOT doing, or FINALLY doing) in 2015? 

AV: For me, 2015 will be the year to celebrate small victories.  Pump up the gratitude.  Sleep more.  And stay focused on enjoying the ride.

CD: Couldn’t agree more with Dre….this year is all about fulfillment!

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